After nine years working with cable and satellite channels on both sides of the Atlantic, I have concluded that the schizophrenia in the advertising community towards the launch of a targeted television service is a congenital condition.
Before launch, you are applauded for your recognition of undeserved audiences and the opportunities you will provide to advertisers in a perfect environment. After launch, however, you are slammed for the size of those audiences and told to come back when they are bigger.
It goes with the territory and is probably inevitable, given the explosion of media vehicles. As a broadcaster the task is to produce the right programme for the right audience, and to work with the intrepid agencies and advertisers which are willing to experiment.
It happened that way in the US a decade ago and has proven successful for those willing to give it a try. My experience was with the initially derided Weather Channel (TWC), now a top-ten cable channel.
TWC’s first fame came from a breed of targeted advertisers whose successful work through the channel presaged the establishment of probably the most profitable channel in the US.
Given the frequency of bad weather everywhere outside Florida, TWC went to beach tourist boards and put them on TV, national or otherwise, for the first time. As in the UK, traditional TV was always too expensive.
As the relationships blossomed and budgets increased, TWC came to represent over 50 per cent of their ad budgets. To TWC, it beat a few bob from a packaged-goods brand owner and meant the creation of an entirely new business category.
The opportunity to replicate that in the UK market attracted me to Granada Good Life and Men & Motors, Granada Sky’s most targeted channels. Through the faith of some key clients, it appears to be working. Good Life has generated more sponsorship revenue than anticipated, including Benckiser’s sponsorship with the Finish brand of our entire Food and Wine output.
The most tangible results, however, have come, as always, from an unexpected source. The Cycle School of Motoring (CSM), with 40 training centres, is a niche market leader that had never advertised on TV. When Laser Satellite & Cable approached director of marketing Nick Stephenson and Sennen Gills Media to sponsor the three-hour Bike Night in April, they were willing to take the plunge, with sponsorship tags and specially-produced spots offering a free lesson. Not only was call volume higher than expected, but more people called for friends and family and a much higher percentage than normal went on to buy the full package, the purpose of the exercise.
Given the success of advertising to the right audience in the right programmes, CSM has extended its commitment to sponsor bike programme 2 Wheels Better. It has embraced targeted advertising and now has a presence at major bike shows. Overall, return on investment was tenfold.
Don’t get me wrong: no satellite channel will diminish the importance of big TV advertisers, particularly in the early days, and we’ve been fortunate to get our share. But the kind of relationship you can have with companies like CSM, where you’re a core part of their business, makes it worth getting on your bike in the morning.